[sf-lug] Back in early days of (Linux, etc.) ...

Michael Paoli Michael.Paoli at cal.berkeley.edu
Sat May 17 11:56:06 PDT 2008

> Date: Sat, 10 May 2008 11:26:05 -0700
> From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
> Subject: Re: [sf-lug] wubi
> To: sf-lug at linuxmafia.com

> To elaborate on what I was saying, both Wubi and live CDs can been seen
> as ways of remaining a tirekicker Linux user -- for good or for bad.

Hopefully more good than bad, ... but likely at least some of each.  (I
have serious doubts about Wubi ...
"Wubi does not require you to modify the partitions of your PC"
... *could* be a good thing (user tries it, finds Linux rocks, swiftly
moves to dual-boot or Linux only installation), or could go very badly
(user runs Wubi on NTFS, likes it, installs and adds lots more software
under Wubi, and down the road hits lots of problems and concludes that
Linux sucks))

> Back in early days of Linux, you would simply install the OS -- done.
> Whatever used to be what on the hard drive got wiped out in the process,
> and machine booted into Linux only, and so what you used on it from that
> point forward was Linux.  If it was unfamiliar (which it was to all of

Naw. ;-)

Back in them thar early(-ish) Linux days, most folks doing or trying to
do most anything with Linux were hackers (in the traditional sense)
and/or rather to quite technologically inclined.  Dual (or more) boot
was always an option ... but a more primitive one "way back then".  Let
us not forget the venerable old (mini and micro) floppy - pretty much
required standard equipment of the day ... and yes, Linux boot loader,
kernel, and root file system all could reasonably fit on a single
floppy way back then, ... with room to spare to put a fair bit of
application stuff ... and probably still a bit of room to spare.
Computers cost more back then, and many of us often just had one system
to work with - and typically with just one hard drive in it.  And the
hard disks on x86 supported 4 - yes 4 operating systems (OS) one could
boot from! ... well, okay, that's part of ye olde PC partition
specification, but each primary partition could be a separate OS, and
the expectation was that the MBR would boot the partition marked as
active, and that at any given time, only one partition would be marked
as active.  That was at least the theory, anyway.  MBR and various
multi-boot support was more primitive then, ... but multiboot was still
done nevertheless ... hence again the floppy.  E.g. I started Linux
with multiboot ... first just on floppy, ... later, repartitioning, so
I could give it some space on the hard drive (and repartitioning then
meant backup and restore - no shrinking of a file system - especially
file systems that were rather to quite foreign to Linux).  So, ... a
repartitioning, ... and "installation" of Linux? ... well, mucking
about with MBR was still rather primitive and hazardous then ... but
there was ye olde floppy ... for several weeks ... perhaps a couple
months, I'd bootstrap the Linux on hard drive via booting from floppy
... certainly the bootloader, and quite possibly the booted kernel (at
least initially), were still on floppy.

And unfamiliar? ... yes, to some(/many), ... but to some(/many) of us,
it wasn't that unfamiliar.  Many of us were already *nix heads before
starting with Linux ... so, ... e.g. for me, ... unfamiliar?  No, ...
but different, yes (Linux was not SCO UNIX ... thank goodness :-)).

> Dual-booting (then mostly with LILO, now mostly with GRUB) became
> popular around the time, unlike UMSDOS has persisted to this day, and
> has remained the predominant tirekicker mechanism:  Ostensibly, it
> permits users to switch back and forth, but 99% of such users are
> kidding themselves, really aren't ever going to get used to Linux, and
> would be better off saving themselves (and anyone from the Linux
> community helping them) the trouble.

Naw ;-) ... more like something in the 60 to 98% range.  Many use dual
boot as a transition strategy, e.g.:
Boot Linux, do stuff, when encountering something that can't be done
with the existing Linux installation, figure out how to do it and get
it done (e.g. install something and learn a (slightly?) different way
of doing it), or boot the other OS and do it, and when done, boot Linux
again.  In such cases, often one eventually gets to the point where
Linux is run all (or almost all) the time, and no other OS is needed on
hard drive (so it gets blown away, and the hard drive installation
becomes all Linux) ... or Linux is run most all the time, and that
other OS is run once in a great while for a short time.  E.g. my foray
into Linux:
first I just ran Linux on floppy,
then I carved out space for it on hard drive, and dual booted for
weeks or month(s),
then I did a last and final full backup of that other OS, gave all of
the hard drive to Linux, and changed MBR, etc. (installed LILO on hard
drive), so the system became a full Linux system.

Some also use it not so much as a "transition" strategy, but more of an
"each OS will do stuff I need that the other won't", and will
occasionally - and often fairly regularly - switch back and forth, ...
typically using one of them >95% of the time, and using the other when
they need it for what it can do that the other can't.  E.g.: I've done
a prior work laptop with Linux and another OS.  Ran the other OS most
of the time (lots of work stuff only ran on that OS), but also
occasionally ran Linux - for the cool, nifty, fast, efficient stuff I
at least occasionally needed it to do that the other OS wouldn't do for
me.  In another example, my current personal laptop - it runs Linux
almost all the time
 11:51:44 up 136 days, 42 min, 23 users,  load average: 0.02, 0.03, 0.00
(okay, so my personal laptop doesn't get out much) ... but it's also
got another OS on the hard drive (because A) I couldn't buy the laptop
for less without that OS, and B) some of their pesky support sometimes
relies upon that OS, and C) once in a blue moon (okay, less often than
that) I might want to try something on that other OS) ... but in any
case, my personal laptop is running Linux about 99.9% or more of the

> Live CDs at least are _explicitly_ just a taste of the CD's operating
> system -- and there's typically an "install to HD" icon for anyone who
> wants a more serious experience.

Well, ... varies a bit, and also depends on what live CD done how
("rescue" mode on many CDs/DVDs, also does fall under that "live CD"
umbrella).  Of Live CDs and the like, many are highly useful for doing
various kinds of tasks ... without need to change anything on the hard
drive (or for that matter even having a hard drive).  At least some,
are also rather useful for testing out "feel" (at least a modest bit,
but not speed or most administrative tasks, etc.) and hardware
compatibility and such, before doing an actual installation to hard
drive.  I don't think "live CD"s are of much use beyond that ... though
they can be rather to quite useful for those limited purposes.  (Well,
they're also fairly inexpensive to hand or send out - particularly for
folks whos Internet bandwidth is low to non-existant.)

> (My views; yours for a small fee and waiver of reverse-engineering
> rights.  ;->  )

Reverse-engineering rights waved.  As for small fee, that's been paid in
my provided two cents worth ;-).

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